The HB Fail: What Is It, Why Does It Exist, and How Do We End it?
by Hannah Basali
Here at HB everybody wants to succeed, but sometimes our definition of success is extremely skewed by the high standards set here. The HB “fail” is commonly known to all of us: somebody saying that they failed when they got a 93 is the most common example. As students we all know how these standards can affect us both academically and personally, but do we know how others might perceive it? Here are the perspectives of four HB teachers on the HB fail along with some tips on how to change our habits.
New HB Teachers:
When Ms. Slanina began teaching at HB last year she was shocked at how different the environment was from her old school. She states that it can at times be frustrating to deal with students who are not confident with themselves because she clearly sees that they understand concepts and knows that there is no reason they should lack confidence. She noticed how most of us are hard on ourselves from within and wants us all to become more confident in ourselves. Most importantly, Ms. Slanina wants us all to know that even though there is always room to improve we should all still acknowledge what we have already accomplished and not be too hard on ourselves for small mistakes.
When Ms. Cahill started teaching at HB she received warnings from other teachers to be prepared that the HB students are very hard on themselves, but she didn’t fully comprehend it until she witnessed it firsthand. She was shocked how much attention is put on such small details like how somebody might have a 96.3 in a class instead of a 96.5 needed for an A+. She notes that this hasn’t affected her teaching style, but it does make her think carefully about how she responds to how people do on tests and the questions that they ask. She quickly noticed how grade driven the students are, and she hopes that all of us can break the chain reaction mentality (ex. If i get a B on this math test I will never get into college) and try to see things in the bigger picture. Also, she hopes that we will continue building relationships with our teachers, as they care a lot about our wellbeing as well as our academic success and are always willing to help.
Veteran HB Teachers:
The longer Ms. Armstrong teaches at HB the more she feels that grades get in the way of teaching. This issue of the HB fail, while not a new one, certainly has grown over time. She states that it is human nature to try to improve, but the competitive atmosphere often gets in the way of real learning. Ms. Armstrong hopes that all of us can work on detaching ourselves from the system and find what actually matters to us and makes us happy, and not just what will make us look the best on our applications. Lastly, Ms. Armstrong believes that when used properly, the supportive nature and the endless opportunities can strengthen each of us both academically and mentally, but we all have to be willing to let ourselves take advantage of it without looking at the grade-driven perspective.
KP has learned over the years that as a teacher he must be thoughtful about the grade he gives a student because it will be taken personally. These grades can either help or hurt us both academically and physiologically. An HB alumni once told him, years after she graduated, that she was glad to grow from receiving grades from him that truly reflected what she should have earned, and she knew to trust his opinion. She stated that she was able to continue her academic progress with this in mind, and that it benefitted her to place her trust in her teachers. KP acknowledges that HB markets itself in a way that if a student doesn’t crazily excel then they consider themselves a failure. However, he wishes that his students would focus more on trying to do the best they can and not worry so much about the outcome. He wants the HB students to know that the grade they receive is almost always reflective of the work that they put in, and that if the students focus their interests on pure learning instead of grade driven learning then the grades will reflect this shift.
I hope that all of you will be able to get something out of the perspectives of both new and veteran HB teachers. The HB community is incredibly strong academically, but this should not come at the expense of the students’ mental health. We should all learn to acknowledge that the HB fail is illogical when put in a real world perspective, and we should all begin to shift our perspectives to focus on actually learning for the sake of learning.